A new survey reveals gaps in patient knowledge and education by providers
Eye care professionals (ECPs) are missing the opportunity to talk about contact lens options with up to two-thirds of their patients, a recent survey found. This is despite the fact that there have been numerous advancements in contact lens technology, and many patients are looking for new vision correction options.
The survey, conducted by the Contact Lens Institute (CLI), a group of research-oriented contact lens manufacturers and other lens care products whose focus is the safe use of contact lenses, also revealed that there is a lot of misinformation out there about contact lenses.
CLI hosted a discussion about the survey findings, where the panelists talked about how providers can better educate patients and help them find the best vision correction solution for them. Here are five missed opportunities for many practices:
1. You are not bringing up contact lenses.
When asked about their two most recent visits to an ECP, only 11% of patients surveyed remembered contacts being discussed as a replacement or an occasional alternative for glasses; 66% said that contact lenses were not discussed at all.
As many as 66% of patients did not recall their eye doctor discussing contact lens options with them at their last appointment.
Panelist Jennifer Lyerly, OD, said that ECPs need to be proactive. “There are a lot of patients who are interested in contact lenses that are waiting for you to bring it up.” Klaus Ito, OD, added that staff are often the first point of contact, and a good time to bring up contact lenses is on an intake form. “The more times a patient is asked about contact lenses, the more chances it will stick,” he said.
Panelist Elise Kramer, OD, added, “When staff are on the phone verifying insurance, they can say, ‘You have contact lens benefits. Is that something you want to use?’ And that gets the ball rolling.” Essence Johnson, OD, added that follow-up calls with patients are another opportunity to mention lenses.
2. You aren’t harnessing the power of your staff.
In addition to having staff start the contact lens conversation, let’s fit our employees with lenses themselves, suggested Lyerly. “Our staff is going to talk to patients about things they have personal experience with.” She gave an example of a staff member who wears scleral lenses for dry eye and is so enthusiastic about them she regularly mentions them to patients. “It’s such a game-changer when you have your staff empowered with the best technology,” said Lyerly.
Johnson added, “If you yourself are using it, or your staff is, it helps patients understand the value” of premium lens options, for example.
That ties into another data point in the survey: 19% of patients said they don’t wear contact lenses because they’re too expensive. However, this response was not based on household income, showing that it’s not the price, it’s the perceived value, said Lyerly. “The only way to drive up the value of that lens is to talk about the technology and the lifestyle improvements.”
3. You are not clearing up misinformation.
The survey also revealed significant gaps in patients’ knowledge about contact lenses. As many as 1 in 2 adults who need vision correction fall prey to myths and misconceptions. For instance, 10% believe contact lenses are dangerous, and 14% believe contact lenses can get lost behind the eye.
It’s a good idea to educate patients about the eye’s anatomy to help clear up misinformation, such as the fear that a contact lens can get lost behind the eye.
It’s ECPs’ job to educate patients on the safe use and wear of contact lenses. “I think it’s important to explain the anatomy to patients, that it’s anatomically impossible for a lens to go behind the eye,” said Kramer. (Don’t miss the 10 Exam Mode Clips You Need to Know About for Your Eyecare Practice.)
Johnson added, “Reassure them that you are going to follow up, and give them trouble-shooting tips. Teach them things they can do if they suspect their contact lens is stuck, for example.”
Another myth to clear up is that people with dry eye can’t wear contact lenses. Once the condition is treated, there’s no reason lenses can’t be worn with success, said the panelists.
4. You’re making assumptions about what patients want.
The survey revealed the somewhat surprising findings that older patients are showing more of a preference for contact lenses. The panelists gave several examples of patients who may not have seemed like good candidates for lenses who ended up choosing them. For instance, a lot of presbyopic patients want to wear contact lenses, but don’t want to also wear readers. They don’t know that multifocals may be an option for them, said Ito.
Kramer added that some older people choose contact lenses for cosmetic reasons, from avoiding the “aging” stigma associated with spectacles to simply wanting to change up their look with colored contacts. Other patients are not looking for an “all or nothing” solution, and are very happy with part-time lens wear, such as during workouts, said Lyerly.
5. You are not explaining your “why” to patients.
Nearly half of patients surveyed weren’t sure if all types and brands of contact lenses are essentially the same. This can lead to significant problems.
One patient ordered contact lenses online but didn’t know to specify multifocal. It’s important to explain to patients what you prescribed and why.
For example, Kramer had a patient who ordered daily disposable contact lenses online because they were cheaper. However, he didn’t specify multifocal so he got single-vision instead. Upon coming into her practice, Kramer was able to explain the problem. “It’s important for patients to understand what they were prescribed and why.” And, if you can offer them convenience by ordering through your office instead of online, even better.
Kramer adds that ECPs must educate patients to counteract the messaging they may be getting elsewhere. “A lot of the online marketing that’s out there from vendors makes it seem like contact lenses are a cosmetic device, rather than a medical device.”
Tell patients why you chose a specific lens, whether it’s the shape of their cornea, their particular prescription, or other reasons, said Lyerly. “In today’s world patients expect us to educate them. They want to know the ‘why’ of the technology.”
Some good news from the survey is that 68% of adults requiring vision correction turn to their ECP for contact lens info, showing that eye doctors are still a trusted source of information.
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